Blowing the whistle to the SEC on FCPA violations by public companies can make you rich. Really rich. Rewards can be ten to thirty percent of amounts recovered. Based on the size of modern FCPA recoveries, that could be tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.
Congress created the reward program as part of the 848-page Dodd-Frank financial reform law (here). The SEC hasn’t issued final regulations for the program — it has 270 days from Dodd-Frank’s enactment on July 21 to do that. In the meantime, a whistleblower can still earn a reward.
► File complaints online. Use the right form. The one for reporting bribery (that is, violations of the FCPA’s antibribery provisions) is here. Complaints can also be filed in letters to the SEC Complaint Center, 100 F Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20549-0213. Or by fax to 703-813-6965
► Include plenty of detail. There’s no bright line. But the more detail, the SEC says, the more chance of an eventual reward. Only information that’s original can be the basis for a reward — not duplicate information already known to the SEC or that’s come from an earlier whistleblower. So include attachments with the online form that support your complaint. Up to 5 megabytes is allowed. That should be enough for copies of emails, payment records, receipts, agreements, calendars, travel records, and the like.
► File alone or with someone else. A whistleblower, the law says, can be one person, or two or more complainants acting together.
► File in your name, or anonymously through a lawyer who won’t disclose your name. But before any rewards are paid, the SEC has to know the whistleblower’s identity. And when the case becomes a matter of public record — i.e., after an enforcement action — the whistleblower’s name might be revealed.
► Follow the rules that cover the filing of whistleblower complaints. The law requires it. So check the SEC’s site often to keep current.
► After you file, wait. Lawyers in the Division of Enforcement will evaluate the claim. But by law, the SEC generally can’t disclose anything until there’s an enforcement action. That’s “to preserve the integrity of the investigative process as well as to protect persons against whom unfounded charges may be made.” Not all complaints result in enforcement actions. So you may never hear back.
► Be patient. Your complaint is one of many. One law firm said a few weeks ago that it had “just in the last ten days filed several whistle-blower complaints with the SEC, pursuant to the new statute, involving major Wall Street firms, which filings appear to implicate hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, of investor related fraud issues, including on behalf of former senior employee(s) of entities.”
► Watch for retaliation. A whistleblower who thinks he or she has been discharged or discriminated against by an employer has two years to bring a claim in federal district court, and can recover actual and special (punitive) damages, plus attorney’s fees.
Note: This post is only a summary. Refer to the SEC for complete guidance.